I will be giving my only daughter (Jordan) away in marriage in a few weeks. We are so happy for them and it does my heart good to see her beautiful smile of anticipation for the wedding. Jordan lost her brother and grandmother 6 weeks apart about this time last year. In her deep grief I remember her saying she didn’t care about an engagement anymore and gave up hope on the idea of marriage all together. Many of the people she wanted most to attend a wedding were now gone and the thought of having a celebration without them caused her to abandon her dreams of getting married. Late last spring we took Jordan and her boyfriend Jordan (we call him Jordan squared) to a movie and coffee afterwards. We were all hurting over the losses in our family that father’s day and spoke of our loved ones over comfort food and mocha lattes. We talked late into the night, hugged and said goodbye, got into our cars and headed for home. Not long into the drive we received a picture text from Jordan “squared” of a ring with a rock. He said, “Maybe next time I can get away long enough to talk to you guys about this.” Stacey gasped and texted back, “I just peed my pants!” That night and that text shined a faint beam of light into a dark time in all our lives. Now it was on, how and when the proposal would go down would run into mid summer, she had no idea what was coming. Unbeknownst to him he chose to propose at the very place I asked my wife to marry me.
I was in my time of mourning and I had a long way to go before I healed enough to exchange my tears for laughter. I wondered if it would ever, or could ever take place, sadness dominated me so much that I was concerned about being happy on her big day. I have struggled with weddings since my son died; mainly because all of those hopes and dreams for my son died with him. I truly wanted to be happy but happiness was evasive. Walking into the pain has helped prepare me for Jordan’s wedding, here’s how.
Hit pause for a moment and let me tell you of 3 weddings that I have observed since that night in the coffee shop. Each one has helped me heal and move me a few steps closer from sadness to gladness.
The first wedding I saw were total strangers. I observed a group of young people in a wedding party in a photo shoot. They were in the downtown area where we had coffee some days before, they were full of life and smiles. It hit me at that moment that Jacob would never experience that for himself or with his friends. It was raw, it hurt to watch people be happy when I was so sad.
The second wedding came later that fall overlooking beautiful Lake Michigan. The couple was around 20 years old and bursting with love for each other. As they recited their vows I was struck by the phrase, “In good times and in bad times” and what that actually meant to me that afternoon. How can you know at 20 what that really means? Now, at 46 I realize the depth of love needed to grieve together in the most difficult seasons of life. We left for the reception and ate with friends but it was more than I could endure. I had to leave when the music and dancing started, sorrow was dominating my heart and I could not be happy even though I was happy for the newly weds.
The third wedding took place last December. Our nephew got married and I was still sad but the sadness was diminishing, although I did have to step away two or three times. I made it through the whole ceremony and reception with less difficulty. I had now witnessed the wedding of strangers, of friends and of family. I was working through the pain and my season of grief, I was healing and being prepared for my time of joy and dancing with my sweet baby girl.
Hit play again now. What I wanted least at my daughter’s wedding is the predominant feeling of sadness to overrule the joy that should be there on the occasion. I am ready to laugh, I am ready to dance. Am I sad? Yes, I am still sad but the sadness has diminished with time and time has granted me some happiness. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven..there is a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4 ESV)
Ten months of preparation for the big event has past and the final details are now being finished. It began with the engagement, all the special considerations for the bride and groom are done. The guests can expect a beautiful ceremony, a wonderful meal and plenty of joyful faces. I expect to cry. Some tears will be from the lingering sadness of absent loved ones, this will never go away in this life and I wouldn’t want them to dry up. But I also expect tears of happiness and hope shed for my daughter and our new son-in-law.
Daughters are treasures! I lost a son, but now I am gaining a wonderful son-in law. As time goes ahead the seasons of life will change again and I hope to have grandchildren. I actually have not wanted that role or title at all, mostly because I am hesitant to love that deep again because the deeper you love the harder you grieve. But as my wife has said, “It is better to have loved deep than to never have loved.”
So, it’s been a little over a year since we lost mom and Jake. My time to mourn is getting farther behind and my time to dance is just around the corner. How did I get to this point? Jesus carried me the whole way. “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4) He invited me saying, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy; and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV) Death and sin have been defeated, Jesus has carried my sorrow and grief and I have found rest for my soul. It is now time for me to dance!